The Role of Education

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Faith and Freedom

Thomas Jefferson sought to create a “wall of separation between Church & State,” rejecting the historical entanglement of government and religion he believed denied people a fundamental right of conscience. Throughout our history as a multi-religious country, Americans have faced challenges safe-guarding religious freedom and it remains a relevant issue in American society today.

The Ongoing Quest for Equality

"This was the object of the Declaration of was intended to be an expression of the American mind..."

-Thomas Jefferson, 1825

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Wealth and Its Disparities

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Jefferson's Views Jefferson believed “artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and birth” was a threat to the American experiment in representative government.
Jefferson's Reality Paradoxically, wealth and its disparities were on full display at Monticello.
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The Question of Immigration

Jefferson believed immigrants were a source of strength in contributing to the success of the American experiment in self-government and that America had an obligation as a place of refuge for those seeking to escape tyranny. As a nation of immigrants, who we welcome to join the American experiment in self-government is an ongoing challenge.

The Right - And Responsibility - to Vote

Thomas Jefferson advocated for extending the right to vote as widely as possible. While the U.S. Constitution provided the framework for voting rights, extending those rights to all citizens equally has been an endeavor throughout America's history.

The Vitality of the Free Press

Media and Politics

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Freedom of the Press Jefferson’s letters reveal his mixed feelings on the freedom of the press, which he came to view as a necessary evil.
Partisan Press The partisan politics arising from the creation of the Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties gave birth to the partisan press.
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The Art and Science of Compromise

Starting with the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson recognized the need for compromise, both as a means to build consensus for a more perfect union and as a means to defer to the future resolving issues that would break the country apart.

Threat of Debt

Jefferson viewed both personal debt and the national debt as threats to the American experiment in self-government, presenting risks to civic responsibility, endangering government stability, and precluding investment to improve individual and national prosperity.

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Personal Debt Jefferson's personal debt resulted from a combination of his borrowing to support his lavish lifestyle, the ups and downs of plantation agriculture, and debt acquired from his father, father-in-law, and friends.
National Debt As President, Jefferson reduced taxes, paid down the debt, reined in military spending, and embarked on public works programs. Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin led these efforts to set the country on a course of fiscal restraint.
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Patriotism and Partisanship

"I tolerate with the utmost latitude the right of others to differ from me in opinion without imputing to them criminality."

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The Idea As a realist, Thomas Jefferson recognized partisanship was inevitable under a representative government, but as an idealist, he maintained a faith that patriots would put country before party, ensuring the success of the American experiment in self-governance.
Reality and Legacy Throughout American history, politicians have grappled with balancing the interests of their party and the broader national interest. The challenge of putting country before party continues to the present day.
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The Utility of Hope

"I steer my bark with Hope in the head, leaving Fear astern. My hopes indeed sometimes fail; but not oftener than the forebodings of the gloomy."

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In the Hands of the People

by Jon Meacham
Read more about the topics presented here in this publication. Explore

A Civic Engagement Initiative sponsored by and in collaboration with The New York Community Trust – The Peter G. Peterson FundPeterson Foundation Logo


“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation seeks to bring history forward into national and global dialogues. The Foundation seeks to facilitate conversations and to use its extensive research and knowledge to stimulate interactions on a variety of topics that were of keen interest to Jefferson, the most powerful of which are liberty and self government. Through virtual, off-site and on-site engagement, the Foundation seeks to excite the world about Jefferson’s relevance today and ignite a passion for history.